GARY | Long-awaited demolition has begun on the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Gary nearly three decades after the last guest checked out.

The 14-story eyesore, long ago rotted out into a windowless husk, sat empty in Gary for decades and has often been considered a towering symbol of the city's declining fortunes.

On Saturday, a crew tore down the main bridge that connects the hotel – the fourth tallest building in the city – with the Hudson-Campbell Sports Center on Massachusetts Street. An excavator leveled the pedestrian walkway on the east side of building, which will come down story-by-story during the $1.8 million demolition project.

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson made it a priority to raze the blighted hotel with the unfinished skywalk that failed to reach the Genesis Convention Center. The high-rise next to Gary City Hall opened around 1970 as a 135-room Holiday Inn, closed within a few years, was revived as a Sheraton in the late 1970s and was shuttered for good in 1985. Trees famously grew inside the abandoned building, which is covered in graffiti and strewn with trash.

Demolition has long been delayed because of an unexpected amount of asbestos found in the hollowed-out building. The towering symbol of urban decay will be replaced with green space.

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Business reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.